To Jacqueline “Jackie” Jones (pictured to the left at the UMMC Service Awards Gala), retirement was no excuse to slow down. In fact, this lifelong learner has discovered a new purpose: using her time and talent to help others. “God put on my heart to be an advocate for diabetes awareness,” Jones says. “After having diabetes for so many years, I know what can happen if you’re not in control.”
Jones has always found ways to connect with her community, both professionally and personally. She spent 38 years as an educator in both the Baltimore County and Prince George’s County Public School Systems, and is active in her church and the community at large. Fortunately, Jones’ early career included teaching health science, where she discovered she was experiencing the very symptoms of diabetes outlined in her lesson plan. A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in 1990 inspired her to change her habits and make healthier lifestyle choices.
Jones discovered the experts at the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology (UMCDE) at UMMC Midtown Campus while she was on loan to the Maryland State Department of Education as a character education specialist. “At first, I went there [UMCDE] because it was so close to my workplace in downtown Baltimore,” Jones says. “Eleven years later, I am still a patient! The doctors and nurses really helped me gain control and successfully manage my diabetes. They’re wonderful.”
Once Jones retired, she began a new chapter— combining her passion for education with a renewed dedication to diabetes awareness at UMMC Midtown Campus and, closer to home, at her church, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Laurel, Md. “Our diabetes support group members wanted to give back as part of our church’s annual Emancipation Day celebration and the idea for a 5K run/walk fundraiser came up,” she says.
All proceeds from the Emancipation Day 5K Run/Walk and 1 Mile Fun Walk benefit patients at UMCDE through a variety of outreach initiatives, including the Breakfast on the Go program. Now in its fifth year, the program provides nutritionally-sound meal kits for diabetics in need. “We want to share our blessings with others,” Jones says. “Sometimes folks have to make choices between paying for a co-pay or a meal. We want to lift that burden.” To date, the race has raised more than $2,000 in contributions.
“It’s really wonderful to have patients like Jackie who are successful in managing their diabetes and who share their knowledge to lift others up,” says Eva H. Gonzales, MPH, RD, CDE, senior diabetes educator at the UMCDE at UMMC Midtown Campus. The generosity of donors like Jackie has allowed us to continue programs like Breakfast on the Go, that immediately benefit our patients.”
Jones’ dedication to diabetes awareness at UMMC Midtown Campus has expanded to UMMC as a member of the President’s Patient and Family Partnership Council. “She’s exactly the type of patient and advocate UMMC was looking for as we were forming this advisory group,” says Brian Bailey, senior vice president and executive director, UMMC Midtown Campus. “Jackie’s experience as a patient and educator brings great insight to the discussions.” Jones was also invited to share her inspirational story as the patient speaker at this year’s University of Maryland Medical Center Service Awards Celebration.
“I’m living healthier now with diabetes than I was before,” Jones says. “It’s up to me to share what I’ve learned with others and I’ll keep giving back as long as I can.”